What Causes Brain Fog?

Symptoms of brain fog are said to include fatigue, irritability, and memory loss. Various diets and supplements are said to help treat it. But is brain fog even a real thing? What causes brain fog?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #395

I have gotten a handful of questions lately from listeners wanting to know whether a certain diet or supplement will help with “brain fog.”  Each of the people that wrote to me had come across a blog or a YouTube video or podcast that described a product or dietary regimen that was supposed to treat brain fog. Interestingly, each offered a completely different solution for the same problem.

Although Brain Fog is not a recognized medical condition, it's a term that I’m starting to see more and more frequently. It’s used as a sort of catch-all to describe a wide range of symptoms. Here’s a typical list of things that are given as symptoms of brain fog:

·         low energy

·         fatigue

·         irritability

·         trouble concentrating

·         headaches

·         forgetfulness

·         low motivation

·         depression

·         anxiety

·         confusion

I don’t know if the folks who wrote to me were online trying to find a solution for a problem they were experiencing or whether they simply stumbled across this list of things and thought, “Hey, I sometimes feel tired or blue. Maybe I have brain fog?“

Brain Fog: Many Symptoms with Many Potential Causes

There are many possible reasons that you might experience any one of these. You might feel fatigued because you have iron deficiency anemia, for example. Or, you might have a problem with your thyroid. Or, you might feel fatigued because you’re not getting enough sleep at night.

If you have iron-deficiency anemia, an iron supplement could help you feel much better. But if the problem is that you’re not sleeping, it’s probably not going to help much.

If you’re not sleeping well, it could be because you’re drinking too much caffeine too late in the day. It could also be that you’re drinking too much alcohol. Maybe your room isn’t dark enough, or maybe it’s that you spend the last two hours of every day staring at your iPad, which emits a blue light that stimulates the brain. Each of these can disrupt your sleep and leave you groggy the next day.

When fatigue might be caused by such a long list of unrelated factors, how can anyone claim that their thing is the solution? And fatigue is only ONE of the alleged signs of brain fog.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.